May 8, 2020

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)


Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

The Qi and flavor of Zé Xiè are sweet, cold and non-toxic. It treats wind, cold, damp impediment, difficult lactation; [it] nourishes the five viscera and boosts qi and strength, makes one plump and healthy, and disperses water. Taken for extended periods of time, the ears and eyes will become sharp and bright. It reduces hunger, extends the years [life], lightens the body, brightens the complexion, and [gives one] the ability to walk on water. [1]

Zexie is a water medicinal, which is sweet and cold. It is able to ascend the qi of water-yin upwards and nourish center earth. It governs the treatment of wind, cold, damp impediment, by initiating the water-fluids in the lower body, which then from center earth irrigate the muscles, interstices and skin. Breast milk is the fluid of the middle burner, so by the nourishment of water-fluids in center earth, it is able to treat difficult lactation. The five viscera receive the essence of food and grains, and since zexie flows and pools in center earth, it can therefore nourish the five viscera. The kidneys are the unyielding official, whose water essence supports the upper, and therefore boosts qi and strength. By irrigating the muscles and interstices from center earth, [zexie] is able to make one plump and healthy. Water qi first ascends then descends, therefore [zexie] disperses water. The sharpening and brightening of the ears and eyes after being taken over an extended period of time are the result of water assisting fire. Decreasing hunger and extending the years is due to water nourishing the earth. Lightening the body and brightening the complexion is due to the outward flow of water. With [giving one] the ability to walk on water, it can be said that [when one’s] ears and eyes are sharp and bright, and hunger is reduced, the years are extended, the body is lightened, and the complexion is bright, [they feel as if] they can walk on water!


[1] This last line is very interesting and can be translated and interpreted a couple different ways. The first translation, which is the most common interpretation and the one that makes sense according to later commentaries, is “the ability to walk on water.” Based on Zhāng’s reasoning it makes the most sense. However when first reading the line from the Běn Cǎo, I read it as “[zexie] is able to move water upwards.” This is a common function of the plant and the justification used for many of the positive effects experienced from taking this medicinal, therefore it would make sense. As there is no actual commentary found after the original entry, it’s impossible to know for sure what Shén Nóng meant with this string of characters.



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